US Open Tennis 2011: Why the U.S. Open Is Not "The Greatest Tournament"

Michael LanichCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2011

These guys could just sit back and chill with a roof, but alas they have to work.
These guys could just sit back and chill with a roof, but alas they have to work.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

For anyone who has wended their way to one of the four grand slams, they know that the possibility of inclement weather is always there.  Let's face it, you cannot control the weather.  The fans know it as much as the players, but while three of the four slams either have a roof or are planning to have one built, the USTA continues to show that despite their constant proclamation that The U.S. Open is "the greatest tournament in the world," it is in fact quite nearly the opposite.

I'll admit right off that this article has a bit of a personal whiff to it.  That's because I spent all day yesterday sitting in a stadium under an umbrella watching rain drops fall in Arthur Ashe stadium.  I managed to watch a total of 17 minutes of Nadal before rain interrupted and he never came on the court again.  Had rain not been an issue, I was scheduled to watch Nadal and Djokovic and then later Serena and Federer.  A lineup that was heaven to my ears.  Instead I spent well over $150 in food and merchandise.

So as a fan and writer who was there, I can honestly say that in my mind, The U.S. Open is a bottom feeder when it comes to the slams.  Don't get me wrong, the grounds at Flushing Meadows are beautiful.  There is a sense of energy, fun and perfection normally at the event that I have visited multiple times.  

But what happens when things go wrong?  While the weather cannot be controlled, the circumstances under which the players and fans are forced to endure it can be.  For fans to sit in cold, wet conditions simply hoping to get a chance to watch a match that they have endured long car rides and or flights for, and instead walking out empty handed, is a miserable experience I can tell you.  

The worst part, however, is that it needn't be this way at all.  Many years ago when the USTA was planning to build Arthur Ashe, they asked John McEnroe about it and he said that the stadium needed to be smaller (a sentiment now agreed upon by the USTA) and it should have a roof as well.  The USTA decided to ignore him.

For years the Australian Open has had a roof.  Centre Court at Wimbledon has one now and Roland Garros is in the planning stages of one being put on their main court as well.  That leaves only the self-loving U.S. Open as the only major championship without at least one major court with a roof.  How can you be "the greatest tournament in the world" and be unable get matches played in weather conditions that have pushed the Sunday final to Monday each of the last three years?

I understand that it's not simply about a roof being installed.  There has been talk of destroying Arthur Ashe and building a new stadium altogether.  But trust me when I say that the USTA can afford it.  One look at the amount of money most likely brought in on just one day is staggering.  It needs to be done plain and simple.

Right now it's worse for the players.  Nadal is in the fourth round while Djokovic and Federer's side of the bracket is in the quarterfinals which means that to make a Sunday final, there is a possibility that Nadal and his side would have to play four consecutive five set matches to win the championship, while Federer and Djokovic would get a a day off somewhere in there.

It's an injustice that rankles both fans and players alike.  Sadly it's an injustice that we are forced to deal with as each year the U.S. Open gets hit with some freak weather that causes major delays in play, and causes its fans to consider whether or not to come back.

Had there been a roof on Arthur Ashe the last two days, it's possible that at least 4-5 matches could have been played each day which would have made the load much easier to deal with.  It's possible that everything would be on schedule for Sunday with everyone on equal footing.

But no, that is a hopeful fantasy instead of the reality that for the USTA; it's all about the money, not the safety of the players or the experience of the fans.  If it still thinks it's such a great tournament, I can tell you that two days of no matches when it could have been fixed long ago show that it is not.

The USTA says that the cost of putting a roof on Arthur Ashe is around $200 million dollars and that it would be "financially challenging" to do so.  But when does the cost to the fans and players and loss of money due to cancelled tickets, attendance and viewers begin to outweigh the cost of the roof? 

Sorry USTA, but until you do the players and the fans the courtesy of a roof, in my mind you are the bottom feeder of the slams.  At least at the others, they take care of their fans and their players.  What do you do now?  And what are you going to do about it? 


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